The Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) conducted “Girls Change the World” campaigns in the districts of Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Hambantota, Matale and Moneragala. The aim of the FISD’s Girls Change the World campaign was to enable girls to have dignified life where they would be able to achieve their fullest potential and make use of their full capabilities.
Gender Norms and values, social constructs about masculinity and femininity, and their social expectations not only hinder girls achieving their fullest potential and make use of their capabilities but also make them vulnerable to aggression, violence and other forms of human rights violations. The evidence suggests that with the transition of girls from puberty to adolescence their vulnerability to Gender Based Violence increases. These include physical, emotional, psychological violence, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, which has grave and lasting impacts on their health and well-being. More than 1 in 10 girls worldwide has experienced some form of forced sexual activity, and sexual experience of many girls is unwanted or compelled. Worldwide, an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys have experienced sexual violence; nearly half of all sexual assaults are committed against girls 16 years of age. GBV excessively impacts the most vulnerable members of society. Girls in conflict or emergency settings; in minority or indigenous communities, with disabilities; and lesbian bisexual and trans-identified girls are at increased risk of GBV. Married girls may also be at a higher risk of marital rape and domestic violence, either from their husbands or their husbands’ families.
The objectives of the FISD’s Girls Change the World campaign were to enhance the access of girls to quality education and safe environment, to encourage girls to pursue economic opportunities, to empower girls with information on skills, services and support need for their development, to educate and mobilize communities change harmful norms and practices to girls, and to lobby for laws and regulation that would facilitate the development of girls.
At the Girls Change the World campaign the awareness were created through discussion with the participants on topics on how to take right decisions, how to be empowered against violence, how to live with self-respect, how to reject things that are not acceptable, how to maintain physical and mental wellbeing, how question the myths about alcohol, how to achieve ones fullest potential, how to pursue higher education opportunities, need to get married at the appropriate age and how to select a employment in line with one’s ability and liking.
The participants who participated in the awareness discussions of the Girls Change the World campaign in turn educated the people in the above-mentioned districts through, leaflet campaigns, banner campaigns, stage dramas and flash-mobs. They wore T-Shirts and Wrist bands displaying the messages of the Girls Change the World campaign. A total of 585 girls and 65 boys participated in the campaign from the above-mentioned districts.
The Girls Change the World campaigns conducted at the districts facilitated to create an awareness about the vulnerability girls faced and ways to educate and empower them to overcome such vulnerabilities. It also provided opportunities for them to express these issues in a creative manner and to find solutions for them in a non-violent and democratic manner. These campaigns facilitated the district level civil society organizations and social groups to advocate for issues that affected the girls. Also, these campaigners sensitized the district and divisional level stakeholders and duty bears on need to take actions on the issues affected the girls. Knowledge, skills and experience gained by conducting the district level campaigns enabled the FISD staff to conduct the Girls National Programme at the national level.